I see them every day...panhandlers, beggars, homeless people, etc. Whatever you choose to call them, they are at most every major intersection in town. It is always awkward sitting in my comfortable air-conditioned car waiting for the light to turn green and trying to no make eye contact with this person a few feet away from me who is obviously in need. Last fall, we found a way to help people in this situation, we found this idea for making Blessing Bags from the Kids With a Vision Blog.
In November on 11-11-11, as a Young Women Personal Progress Project, Katherine and Megan planned a party to assemble Blessing Bags. Everyone was asked to bring 11 of something that could go in to the bags. We purchased a case of water so that determined that we would make at least 36 Blessing Bags to use up each bottle of water. People brought more than 11 items and friends donated toothbrushes, toothpaste, small boxes of cereal, granola bars, etc. The advantage of our date was that many people had leftover Halloween candy they were happy to get rid of. The day of the party, there was an assembly line. We made sure each bag had a water, toothbrush, and toothpaste, then we used the variety of food and candy items to fill the bags.
We ended up assembling about 50 bags.
Each guest took a few bags home and we ended up with a large bin of assembled bags. Since November, I have carried a few in my car and give them out when I am pulled up close to someone standing at the side of the road or in the median strip. I have also shared them with friends and encouraged them to do the same. I also suggest the addition of cash, change, or small gift cards.
There is a note stapled to each bag explaining what a Blessing Bag is, to hand it out to someone on the streets who looks like they need it, and, if desired, add a few coins, small amount of cash, or a gift card.
(And remove this note before you give the bag to someone :) )
Yesterday, I stopped at a light and there was a man standing there with a sign, HUNGRY. I reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed a Blessing Bag for him. As I was grabbing the bag, I immediately felt like I should give him two bags, so I did. He told me, God Bless you, ma'am, and before the light turned green, this very grateful man was sitting down in the middle of the median strip opening the bag and eating like it had been a long time since he had eaten. It warmed my heart to see him so appreciative and I knew that giving him 2 bags was the right thing. This is always such a lesson to me in not judging whether someone is truly hungry or needy. I have always tried to give the benefit of the doubt and help when I see a need. Having the Blessing Bags readily available has made it easy for me to feel like I am giving immediate assistance.
Photo from Kids With a Vision